RSS

Tag Archives: Title VII

Fifth Circuit Rules Firing Breastfeeding Mom May be Discrimination

Gavel-Scales-of-Justice-American-flag-square

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently ruled that firing a woman because she is lactating or expressing milk is unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Equal Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filed suit on behalf of Donnicia Venters against her former employer Houston Funding II, LLC.  The suit was based on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act because Venters alleged that her employer fired because she needed to breast feed her child.  (For background see:  Did Judge Get this Right? – Breastfeeding is Not Pregnancy Related).    The district court or trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Houston Funding II and the EEOC filed an appeal.

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit considered, “whether discharging a female employee because she is lactating or expressing breast milk constitutes sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.”  Reversing the district court, the Fifth Circuit answered the question in the affirmative.

The Court found that lactation is a physiological condition distinct to women who have undergone pregnancy.  Therefore, under Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, firing a woman because she is lactating or expressing milk is unlawful sex discrimination, since men as a matter of biology could not be fired for such a reason.  As a result of the Fifth Circuit’s decision, Ms. Venters will be able to have her day in court.

If you have questions about employment discrimination or labor and employment law, give Rich Bradford a call at (813) 413-2402.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Mistakes Employees Make in Sexual Harassment Cases

I have practiced employment law for a few years and having handled a number of sexual harassment cases, there are many mistakes that are common to employees bringing suit.  Although these mistakes may not be show stoppers, individually or collectively, they can reduce an employee’s damages in a harassment case.

1.            Failing to Report Harassment to Management.   In many harassment cases, the employee may be uncomfortable and she will keep the offense to herself.  She never reports the harassment and eventually quits and then hires an attorney to sue her former employer.  In harassment cases, employers are able to assert as a defense that it has a policy against harassment and the employee failed to avail herself of that policy.  As soon as the harassment occurs, the employee needs to alert management and give management an opportunity to correct the problem.

2.            Failing to Document the Harassment.   When faced with harassment, an employee may be overwhelmed by the atmosphere created at work.  If she later hires an attorney, she may have a hard time remembering the specifics of her case.   Also, the employee should document her complaints to management.  While management should do a good job of keeping records, this does not happen all the time.  An employee will have a much stronger harassment case if she is able to show each complaint made to management and management’s failure to take action on her complaints.

3.            Quitting Too Soon.    In this situation, an employee may witness a co-worker looking at pornography or observe a co-worker telling off color jokes.  Without informing management, she may be disgusted by her co-worker’s behavior and abruptly quit.  She may also share her experience with a friend or neighbor, who sympathizes with her circumstances.  There may be a good chance that she will not have a case because by quitting too soon, she failed to give management an opportunity to correct the offending behavior.  She may argue that the harassment amounted to a constructive discharge, but a court would disagree if it finds that the harassment did not rise to a level to become intolerable.  The more prudent course of action for an employee in this situation is to consult with counsel prior to quitting.  The exception to this is when the co-worker is repeatedly putting his hands on the employee and management fails to correct what is happening.

Sexual harassment involves unwelcome verbal or physical conduct in the workplace.  Employees should understand that sporadic or isolated incidents generally do not rise to the level of harassment.   Employees should be familiar with their company’s anti-harassment policies to understand the actions they should take when experiencing harassment.  Before deciding to quit, an employee should consult with a labor and employment attorney to determine whether the company’s actions or inactions constitute a violation of the law.

If you have any questions regarding harassment law or employment law, feel free to call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on December 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Tampa EEOC Settles Retaliation Suit with OfficeMax for $85,000

A Florida OfficeMax recently settled retaliation claims filed by the EEOC on behalf of an employee for $85,000.  In this case, an OfficeMax store manager fired an employee, who later complained that the manager fired him because he is Hispanic.  The company required the manager to rehire the employee.  According to the lawsuit, the manager, however, made life difficult for the employee by creating reasons to terminate him and trying to force him to resign.  The employee went to the EEOC who investigated his claims against OfficeMax.   After the parties failed to reach a pre-suit resolution, the EEOC filed a lawsuit in Tampa federal court on behalf of the employee.

Besides reaching a monetary settlement, the EEOC also obtained injunctive relief.  OfficeMax agreed that over the next four years it will seek to reach more Hispanic and African American applicants in the Sarasota/Bradenton area.  It also agreed to provide training for its managers and human resources personnel on racial harassment and retaliation.

OfficeMax2

Although Florida is an at-will employment state – i.e., an employer can fire you for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason at all – both federal and state laws protect employees against discrimination and retaliation.  Because an employee’s economic livelihood depends on his/her employment, the law prohibits employers from disciplining or discharging employees for attempting to enforce their rights under the law.

Rich Bradford at Bradford & Bradford is available to answer any questions that you may have concerning retaliation or employment law in general.   Call us at (813) 413-2402.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

County Property Appraiser Settles Sexual Harassment Case for $135,000

Last spring, the office of the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser was rocked by the sexual harassment claims of Carolyn Filippone.  Although the case had been pending for nearly two years, it did not make front page news until Property Appraiser, Rob Turner, fired his paramour, Carolyn Filippone.

Turner made a huge mistake by firing her as her attorneys were contemplating whether to move forward with a lawsuit.  Prior to the termination decision, Filippone’s claims were limited to sexual harassment.  Thus, the question was whether she could advance a meritorious sexual harassment case against her boss although she had an affair with him.  At this stage, this case had strengths and weaknesses for both parties.   After the EEOC dismissed her case, Filippone had 3 months to decide whether to file a lawsuit.  The decision became a lot easier when Turner fired Filippone before the expiration of the 90 days.  Now Filippone was able to add a retaliation claim to her sexual harassment case.  See Tampa Woman Considers Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Claims Against County Official; Retaliation Lawsuit Filed in Federal Court in Property Appraiser Case; Filippone complaint.

After a few short months, the Property Appraiser’s office decided that settlement was the prudent course of action.  According to the Tampa Bay Times, the parties attended a mediation conference and settled for $135,000.

Sexual harassment occurs when one employee makes continued, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, to another employee, against his or her wishes.  Retaliation occurs when an employer takes some form of adverse action against an employee for asserting his rights under harassment or discrimination law.

If you have questions about sexual harassment or retaliation, you may call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.

Bradford & Bradford’s practice areas include, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Estate Planning, Civil Litigation, Employment Law, and Family Law.

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on December 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

IHOP Settles Sexual Harassment Action With EEOC

 And yet another, sexual harassment case for the International House of Pancakes (IHOP).

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Albuquerque, New Mexico recently settled a sexual harassment case for $1,000,000 that was brought on behalf of a group of women, including teenagers, working for IHOP restaurants.  The harassment included sexual comments, sexual innuendo, and unwanted touching. The lawsuit alleged that the harassment caused some of the women to quit their jobs. 

As a result of the settlement, IHOP is required to implement policies and procedures that will provide its employees a work environment free of harassment and retaliation.   As a side note, I would be shocked to find out that IHOP did not already have such policies in place.  The real question is whether they were enforcing those policies.

Sexual harassment occurs when one employee subjects another to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.  

Not all offensive conduct rises to the level of actionable sexual harassment.  If you have questions regarding sexual harassment, you may call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402. 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , ,

Carolyn Filippone v. Rob Turner – Copy of Lawsuit

Exactly what does a federal lawsuit look like?  Below is a copy of the lawsuit that Carolyn Filippone filed against Rob Turner in his official capacity as the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser.  The allegations are short, simple and to the point.

Filippone v. Turner – Federal Complaint

 
2 Comments

Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Retaliation Lawsuit Filed in Tampa Federal Court Against Hillsborough County Property Appraiser

It looks like Hillsborough Property Appraiser, Rob Turner, has battles on two fronts.  He is seeking another term as the County Property Appraiser and given the stories that recently appeared in the local papers, Mr. Turner will have an uphill battle.  See Storms, Turner at Bell Shoals Baptist for First Election Square Off.  Second, a week ago Carolyn Filippone filed a retaliation lawsuit against Mr. Turner’s office.

There is little doubt that Mr. Turner is  regretting his decision to fire Ms. Filippone.   I previously noted that there was no question that Ms. Filippone would file suit against Mr. Turner.  The only real question was when the suit would be filed.  As previously noted, Ms. Fillippone brought an EEOC charge against Mr. Turner alleging sexual harassment.  Among other things, Mr. Turner confessed to sending porn to Ms. Fillippone.  The EEOC dismissed Ms. Fillippone’s charge in April 2012.  For some reason Mr. Turner believed that the EEOC dismissal gave him the right to fire Ms. Fillippone without worrying about legal exposure.  Mr. Turner failed to understand that the EEOC dismissal letter initiated a 90-day clock in which Ms. Filippone may file a lawsuit in state or federal court.  Mr. Turner also did not understand that the EEOC dismisses approximately 99.99% of the discrimination charges that cross their desk and tell the employee to find an attorney and file a lawsuit.

If he did not fire her, there is a good chance that she would have allowed the 90 day clock to run without filing suit.  Although Mr. Turner confessed to sending Ms. Filippone porn, she still had hurdles to overcome in order to prove a case for sexual harassment.  Mr. Turner committed the quintessential error by terminating Ms. Filippone’s employment.  Simply stated, retaliation cases are easier to prove than harassment cases.  A plaintiff in a retaliation case does not have to show that she would have prevailed in the harassment case.   Mr. Turner should have consulted his attorneys before making the decision to fire Ms. Filippone.   I doubt the County is ready to deal with yet another costly employment case following the misconduct of one of its officials.

For specific questions on Labor and Employment Law, please call me, Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.

Bradford & Bradford’s practice areas include, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Estate Planning, Civil Litigation, Employment Law, and Family Law.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,